Something’s missing. It’s Saturday and I’m alone in my living room with my steamy ramen noodles. The cats are quietly hawking over me. There is the occasional slosh of passing cars, the click as the gas stove turns on to warm the hearth, and the faint sound of the sump-pump clearing our 19th-century basement of water. It is a lazy late afternoon characteristic of my weekends here back at home.
My parents went to visit relatives, and I am here with the mission of doing homework. However, I find my once-familiar environment disturbed somehow. I have been thinking about it every moment since I came back. We didn’t lose a family member or a pet, but rather a commodity.
The dark, reflective face of the television, sitting dead upon its stand, looms in the corner. The room is so quiet I find it unsettling and peaceful all at once. The television cable has been unplugged from the wall and the box removed. There are not even rabbit ears sticking up from behind its massive, bulky plastic shell.
In an effort to become more economically efficient we decided that our talking box was not worth over fifty dollars a month. I am used to having no television in my room on campus and being bogged down with work. According to my paranoid standards, TV watching would mean academic and social failure. On weekends I went home and breaks, though, there I was, enjoying shows like Battlestar Galactica and Mission Impossible. I even started watching Deal or No Deal.
I do not intend to criticize the good television shows out there right now. What I had a difficult time realizing was that even when I wasn’t cheering on my favorite characters on an episode of Battlestar Galactica, for example, someone else might be watching their show, and so on. The background noise was always there, and passively, through sight or sound, I have seen hundreds of episodes of Judge Judy, Judge Mathis, The People’s Court, and others. I have left the news on for three hours while only watching half an hour of it. I have heard thousands of commercials and remembered the advertising but not the source. It is a strange situation knowing what’s on TV, even though consciously you don’t think that you “watch” TV.
It feels like I have lost a family member, but one that was not necessarily well liked and valuable. While I lived for years without cable at all, the most recent portion of my life has been with the TV there by my side for every moment of it. The power it has to transmit images and alter the way one thinks is almost unrivaled. Creativity and imagination are stifled.
Last night, as tonight, I will sit here comfortable and warm in our room designed for “living” and not watching TV. The radio might be on low as I listen for news from the G20 summit in London taking place now; after, only the silence of an old house and thoughtful discussions which have been impeded by countless nights of TV-dinners and overwhelming volume using flashing lights and colors as our guide for family time. The house feels alive now, the sound of settling and its squeaky pine floors no longer muted by the box that teaches, talks, and intrudes.